Monday, August 15, 2011

Game 120 Recap - Pirates 6, Cardinals 2




When Xavier Paul leads off the bottom of the first inning with a home run you know good things are probably going to happen that night for your team. Tonight it was Ryan Doumit who came through with a perfect 4-for-4 night and a big three run home run to pace the Pirates over the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday night at PNC Park.

The Doumit bomb broke a 1-1 tie in the four inning and that was the only runs they needed for the night. The Cardinals pulled to within two in the sixth inning but the Bucs scored single runs in the sixth and seventh inning.

James McDonald had a pretty solid start despite only going 5.2 innings. He threw 92 pitches and walked two batters and gave up six hits while striking out four. He was in a few jams early in the game but did a really nice job to work out of them with some fly outs and strikeouts. McDonald has been solid the entire second half of the season and looks like the guy we thought he was going to be coming into the season. He still has some problems getting deep into games and throwing a ton of pitches is the root of that, not that he has been giving up a ton of runs. Overall he has been pretty good this year and it is really nice to see.

Doumit was pretty outstanding today. I mean when you go 4-for-4 I think you can say that but Doumit did what no other Pirate player can seemingly do and that is go deep. The three run show really busted the game open and gave the Pirates their first bit of breathing room since they were in San Francisco. I know Doumit’s defense is pretty shoddy, at best, but with the offense producing the way it has you need to have him in the lineup.

Neil Walker busted out of a pretty bad stretch with a two hit night. After his first at bat tonight Walker went 22 hitless at bats before singling in his second at bat. He then doubled home a run for his second hit in the seventh inning. It would be nice to see Neil start to heat up again and we know with him that when he gets hot it usually is a really good stretch for him so here is to hoping that he can continue to help produce runs for this stagnant offense.

Jose Veras and the bullpen did a really nice job tonight. The Pirates had a pretty comfortable lead until the eighth when runners were on first and second and Albert Pujols up. Veras struck Pujols out on a 3-2 inside curveball which had Pujols completely fooled. Veras then worked a perfect eighth inning and turned it over to Joel Hanrahan for a perfect ninth inning. Jason Grilli also had a nice outing getting the final out of the sixth inning on two pitches and Daniel McCutchen had an up and down 0.2 innings pitched giving up two hits and a walk.

I have been pretty hard on Xavier Paul all year but he has played very well over the past couple of weeks. He had two hits tonight and led the game off with a home run. I am not sure that he is an everyday player but he has been playing much better. His playing time might be coming to an end with Jose Tabata and Alex Presley coming off the DL soon but it is certainly nice to see Paul playing well.

Tonight’s win for the Pirates was the 57th of the season. What is the importance of that? Last season, for the entire year, the Pirates had 57 wins. There are 41 games left in this season and they have already equaled that win total from last year. I know the success really put higher expectations on this team and the recent slide has been hard to watch but I think reaching 57 wins with 41 games to go really puts this season in perspective for the Pirates. They will not make the playoffs and might not make the playoffs but this team made some considerable progress in the standings. I am not quite sure how I feel about it but anyone saying this season is disappointing is kidding themselves.

The Pirates get a really nice win in game one of the series and set themselves up going forward. They will face Chris Carpenter tomorrow which is no easy task so Paul Maholm is going to have to be strong but it should be a fun game to watch and hopefully the offense can continue to hit the ball well.

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